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Space & Astronomy

Spending time in space can change your DNA

By T.K. Randall
October 29, 2017 · Comment icon 8 comments

NASA astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly. Image Credit: NASA
NASA has revealed some of the results of its recent experiment involving twins Scott and Mark Kelly.
Just before Scott Kelly began a 12-month stint on the International Space Station two years ago, scientists conducted a series of tests on both him and his twin brother, Mark.

After Scott returned from space, further tests were carried out to compare his physical well-being to that of his brother who had remained on the ground the whole time.

The scientists noted that Scott's DNA showed signs of excessive methylation - a process through which cells attach chemicals called methyl groups to DNA molecules.
While this happens to be a normal process that occurs in everyone, in Scott's case it seemed as though his body's efforts to adjust to life in space had resulted in a much higher rate than usual.

"Some of the most exciting things that we've seen from looking at gene expression in space is that we really see an explosion, like fireworks taking off, as soon as the human body gets into space," said investigator Chris Mason.

"With this study, we've seen thousands and thousands of genes change how they are turned on and turned off. This happens as soon as an astronaut gets into space."

Source: Popular Mechanics | Comments (8)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by WelshRed 6 years ago
So is this Space affecting the body or the body adapting to space? In others words Evolution.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Vox 6 years ago
Not to be pedantic Welsh, but you are probably referring to a *mutation* rather than evolution. If for whatever reason our offspring all die out but Scott Kelly's offspring survive as a consequence of those genes, then the *remaining* (Scott Kelly's offspring) human population will have been considered to have evolved as a consequence of natural selection.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Kenemet 6 years ago
Well, it ages you faster than here on Earth.  Soooo... not a positive adaptation. The twins, as far as I know, are not planning any new children for their families so we wouldn't really know if any mutations occurred in the sperm.
Comment icon #4 Posted by WelshRed 6 years ago
Mutations are essential to evolution. Without mutation evolution cannot occur. 
Comment icon #5 Posted by Almighty Evan 6 years ago
A shame. Heinlein had it the other way.
Comment icon #6 Posted by paperdyer 6 years ago
Well methyl group isn't a chemical, it's a group on a chemical.  There must have been some type of methylated substance the astronaut constantly came in contact with that easily reacted with his body chemistry. Methyl groups are the reason you can't drink methanol (wood alcohol).  Some people claim you can make it drinkable by filtering it through bread, but I think those people have already drunk too much of it  Does anyone know what air mixture is in a space stay situation?
Comment icon #7 Posted by Kenemet 6 years ago
Actually, your body can produce methyl groups.  In fact, we need them to function:
Comment icon #8 Posted by FlyingAngel 6 years ago
Evolution doesn't exist anymore in today's world. It's about how much money you can make to then impregnate ladies or die alone in poverty.

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